Does Drinking Alcohol Repel Mosquitoes?

Aug 22, 2011 4:16 pm

More chugs, fewer bugs — could it be that easy?

natural mosquito repellant
The Food Scientist tackles an important question: Does drinking booze help repel mosquitoes?
 

Mosquitoes: they’re a pain in the ass and they know exactly when to turn a perfect al fresco dinner party into their own feast, starring your guests as the main course. Try and try as we do, we can’t seem to rid ourselves of the mosquito problem, even when there seem to be an endless list of remedies and solutions, from sprays to tiki torches to citronella candles. What if I told you that warding off those winged pests could be as easy as drinking a cocktail? Though it may sound preposterous, science suggests that those apertif pisco sours are good at more than just whetting your appetite.

Carbon Dioxide
In general, mosquitoes are drawn to humans by the carbon dioxide (CO2) we exhale with each breath. Research has shown that the more carbon dioxide you exhale, the greater the chances that you’ll attract a swarm of hungry mosquitoes, though the exact reason isn’t entirely known. The question is: Does alcohol affect CO2 exhalation? Theoretically, yes. As a depressant that lowers excitability in the body, alcohol may relax the body, as well as the diaphragm muscle, enough to actually reduce overall CO2 exhalation by causing you to breathe less heavily than if you were active or exerted. Decreased exhalation may not make you invisible, but it should help.

Sweat
To the cute girl across the table, the smell of sweat could be a turn-off. To a hungry mosquito, however, sweat is like an aphrodisiac. What attracts them is the smell of the lactic acid excreted in your sweat, but chances are good that if you’re enjoying an ice-cold cocktail you’re probably sweating less. Load up on the ice and stay cool.

Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Perhaps the most compelling piece of science that may suggest drinking alcohol can help to repel mosquitoes is the effect that alcohol has on thiamine levels in the body. Have you ever noticed that B-vitamins have a distinct smell? That, my friends, is the smell of thiamine, and although some happen to like the scent, mosquitoes do not. In the presence of alcohol, free-thiamine levels in the bloodstream are increased, due to the body’s inability to incorporate it into its coenyzmatic form, thiamine-pyrophosphate. For this reason, alcohol is considered a thiamine-antagonist. With all that extra free-thiamine in circulation, your common mosquito could be more likely to bite the poor soul sitting next to you who decided to fly sober for the evening. 


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